Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nelson Shanks' "Duo Tones"


Here are some examples of Nelsons Shanks "duo tones", or limited palette paintings.  Actually, the term "duo tone" is a misnomer, as there are more that two tones.  These studies are probably more correctly termed "closed grisaille", as the initial empty light masses of the brown grisaille paintings are filled or "closed"   with color  representing the lights. The shadows remain as the grisaille mixture.  At Studio Incamminati we generally use burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and a little white (if necessary) for the grisaille.  This process can be used for completed studies, or can be part of a procedure for developing a painting (see Kerry Dunn previous post for an explanation of closed grisaille).





I included this example of the beginning stage of one of Nelsons' paintings, so you could see how the "duo tone" studies relate to the opening stages of a painting.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Level 3 Portrait Painting class at Studio Incamminati - Core Curriculum



In this post I wish to show what some of the students at Studio Incamminati have been up to for the last few months. This post follows the progress of the Level Three Portrait class taught by Kerry Dunn, in the professional daytime program. Level 3 students (third year) have finally progressed beyond the first two years of studies, which encompassed gestures (croakies), figure and still life drawing in vine charcoal, structural and form drawing in charcoal and graphite, cast drawing and cast painting, open and closed grisaille painting with the figure and color study with both the figure and still life; and are learning to integrate all of the different types of skills learned thus far into one coherent painting process... a somewhat tall order. This symbiotic painting process where students learn how to complete fully colored paintings becomes the final phase of study and takes many years to become comfortable with and many more to fully master. Shown below our Level 3 class is studying portrait painting (or head study) and learning a critical step in the painting process when working with the human figure. "Duo Tone" as we call it, is a step that was taught to the instructors of SI by the school founder Nelson Shanks. This duo tone technique helps provide a bridge in the painting process from the earlier stages of drawing to the later stages of color. Below are examples of students learning such a transition while also focusing on the portrait. Enjoy!

Grisaille

Grisaille is a process using brown paint (we use burnt sienna, ultramine blue and white) to work out the drawing before color paint goes on top. This first stage of the painting process is used to work out the proportions with line. Line drawing can be described as a series of relationships based on tilts and distances. Charles Bargue and Jean-Leon Gerome: Drawing Course is a famous book on this type of training that many still use today. Working towards getting accurate proportions is critical in portrait painting because it is one of the keys in getting the likeness of the sitter.

Instructor demonstration

Student at work

Student at work

Grisaille block-in

The grisaille block-in stage is where the shadow shapes are filled in. This step allows the artist to see the drawing in mass rather than outline. Drawing in mass allows the artist to get a sense of the proportions of light versus shadow and the drawing begins to take on more of three demensional quality. One value for the shadow and one value for the light is called the "graphic shape". It is called this because it looks flat and two dimensional. The graphic shape is another opportunity to re-evaluate the proportions. After this a few darker values can be employed in the shadow mass by adding a thicker application of the grisialle color. Two or three values in the shadow mass is all you need. It is always better to keep things simple rather than complicated. All values are blocked-in as flat shapes. We are not trying to "render" yet, that comes later. Instead we are working on the proportions of flat shapes (generally working from larger to smaller) and estimating the lighter to darker relationships of the two or three values we are using.
Students at work

Students at work

Duo Tone

In the duo tone stage we add a generic flesh color to the areas of skin that are being hit by the direct light. This seperates it further from the shadow mass and gives a better sense of light hitting the surfaces. In the first layer or "first pass" the flesh tone is applied to all areas of light equally in a thin layer. This has the effect of making the light mass look flat and dim. The main purpose for this is that is easier to then build the smaller shapes of lighter values on top. The shapes get smaller and the values lighter as you work towards the light. This is a very tradional method of working and has been employed for centuries. Again, simplicity is best. So the number of values in the light mass need only be about four plus a highlight. It is easier to organize and work with three to five values than it is to work with twenty. Why make it harder, painting is plenty hard already.student work.
Instructor demonstration

Student work
student work
student at workstudent at work
Duo Tone Development

At this stage students can begin developing beyond the three values in the shadow mass and four values plus a highlight in the light mass. It should be noted that the simplified organization of shapes and values up to this point needs to be maintained until the very final stroke and the painting is considered complete. This is what will help the painter keep the "train on the tracks" as the shape/value/color and edge relationships become more complicated. It is easy to get confused if the simplified organization of the painting gets lost in all the smaller progressions. As the duo tone progresses smaller and smaller planes emerge. It is kind of like a marble statue that is being chipped away into smaller and smaller bits. In between each of these smaller shapes or planes or bits are edges. If the edge between is soft it helps to create a rounded surface between each plane. This becomes the "rendering" stage. Duo Tone is supposed to be a stage of development before color is added (the underpainting), but you can see how they can often become a completed work of art in and of themselves. Below are examples of students' duo tones which are further developed.

Instructor demonstration

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Student work

Color Painting

It should be noted now that color is being introduced into the painting process that students still have only two days to work on their paintings, for a total of twelve hours. This is still not much time when you consider than many paintings take anywhere from 50 to 200 hours. After having been immersed in color study classes during their second year, students now apply what they have learned about color to a more complete painting process. The paintings below can be considered middle stage paintings. Color is being introduced and developed into the overall effect, but paintings still are in a sketchy phase, not fully completed. The students will continue to practice middle stage paintings for the rest of the school year and poses will progress to as long as four days. But to develop paintings to fully realized completion, these students will have to wait until year 4.
instructor demonstration

student work

student work

student work
Student work

student work

student work

student work
student work

student work

student work (detail)

*All instructor demonstrations by Kerry Dunn

Thank for you for taking the time to see what our students have been up to. Check in again to see more of what Studio Incamminati has to offer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A variety of Nelson's demos


Happy New Year!  Here are some demos from Nelson Shanks, in various stages.  Enjoy!  Best wishes and inspiration from Studio Incamminati for a happy, healthy new year!